Jessica Golder, who moved to Lewiston from Windham four years ago, says her new hometown sometimes gets a bad and undeserved reputation for crime.

Now, the president of the Downtown Community Action Group and any other Web surfer can see where and when crimes have occurred and get basic details about any crime in the past two years.

The Lewiston Police Department is the first in Maine and one of only eight nationwide to sign on to a new Web-based crime mapping application, software that makes that information available and easily accessible to the public.

The free application — at raidsonline.com — could soon spread to other communities in the state, which are evaluating it.

Golder, a stay-at-home mom who lives on Blake Street, said the information will be helpful for her group, which runs free monthly classes for residents on living safe and healthy lives.

“It’s really nice to be able to see where the biggest problems are,” she said. “If there’s a lot of problems down on Pine Street, we can see what are the main problems and do a class to teach people how not to become a victim to burglaries or whatever.”

The website also could engage more residents in their community, she said, by keeping them informed about not just the major crimes, but also the less noteworthy yet still important offenses, such as car burglaries.

Deputy Police Chief James Minkowsky said the crime data and maps further increase the transparency of police work.

“A better-informed public is going to make our job a whole lot easier,” he said. “This tool will encourage people to be more part of the solution.”

Lewiston learned of the technology through its crime analyst, Andrew Robitaille.

The department communicates with the public through Facebook and Twitter, and Robitaille issues a weekly crime bulletin, with incidents and mugshots, that also is available on the department’s website.

The department alerts landlords when there are calls for service to one of their buildings. “We’re always looking for new ways of keeping the public informed,” he said.

Robitaille said he has been looking forward to the mapping website for years. Although other companies have offered similar publicly accessible systems, they have been cost-prohibitive.

“I’m trying to encourage everybody in the county to come on board,” he said.

Portland police use sophisticated software to map crime locations and analyze trends, and the department makes a monthly report available on its website. However, the data is static and cannot be manipulated by the public.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said any opportunity to keep the public informed and engaged about crime in the community is beneficial.

“We need community involvement. We need them to buy into their own protection,” Sauschuck said. “If we can put out those safety tips and educate the public, it helps us keep them from becoming victims.”

Thad Quimby, director of sales and marketing for Bair Software, said the company offers the crime mapping free because it gives the company exposure. The Colorado-based company also has developed more analytical software that it sells to police and the Defense Department for more sophisticated analysis.

He insisted there’s no catch. “There’s no obligation at all, and there’s never going to be a charge for that,” he said.

The company relied on the popular and free Google mapping application.

Quimby is a 2002 graduate of Greely High School in Cumberland who attended the University of Denver and went to work for Bair Software.

Linking a department’s crime data to the mapping tool does require some work for a police department, which must write programming to translate its records into a format that’s usable by the mapping software. Robitaille said it took about a week for his department to set up the link. Now, the Colorado company links with the department’s system every morning and updates its database.

Cumberland County Chief Deputy Kevin Joyce said the sheriff’s office manually inputs its crime data for analysis. He said he has been looking for ways to get up-to-the-minute crime data. “I’d like to have it be part of our software package,” Joyce said.

If residents are aware that there have been burglaries in their area, they will be more inclined to lock their doors, he said. Someone might also note that a sexual assault occurred in the area and have information that could help police.

Joyce said that when he was a sergeant in Standish, the substation had a large map with color-coded pushpins logging where crimes occurred. But it was time-intensive, didn’t get a lot of visibility and was prone to someone mischievously moving the pins.

Other potential beneficiaries of the tool are homebuyers and people who are moving to an area. Crime can influence a person’s choice of where to live.

Linda Gifford, spokeswoman for the Maine Association of Realtors, said that is less likely to be used in Maine, where crime is relatively low compared with the rest of the country.

“It depends somewhat on the perception of the area or neighborhood,” she said. “Where I live in Readfield, nobody is going to look at that.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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